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Performing a Hard Reset on a Handheld PC


Applies To

  • Windows CE for Handheld PC's


This article describes the concepts behind Hard Resetting a Handheld PC.

  • FAQ
  • How-to Guide


What is a Hard Reset?

Windows CE provides three levels of cycle state. The first is a Standby. In which the device enters a low-power state preserving all data.
The second level is a Soft Reset. This is effectively Windows CE being Rebooted. All Storage Memory remains intact while System Memory is wiped forcing the Operating System to reload all of its required drivers and settings (Including reloading the registry).
The final level is the Hard Reset. A Hard Reset is the Handheld PC equivalent to a Format. All application, user and system memory is wiped.

The result of performing a Hard Reset is not as total as formatting a main stream PC. Windows CE devices are low footprint ROM based devices. A Hard Reset cannot clear the information from the ROM chip and so the Operating System and files that make up the inbuilt applications, (such as Pocket Office, Internet Explorer and Solitaire) are completely safe.

When Hard Resetting you do not have to worry about your device not turning back on. With most Handheld PC devices the only way to damage the ROM chip is to physically break it. With some newer devices - such as the NEC MobilePro 900 - the ROM chip is writeable.
If your Handheld PC has a writeable (Flashable) ROM chip. The process of Hard Resetting your Handheld PC and Flashing the ROM chip are totally separate. There are safe guards in place on the device that make it impossible for a you to lose the contents of the ROM chip while performing a Hard Reset process.

Why would I need to perform a Hard Reset?

There are many reason why you would need to. The most common one is for trouble shooting serious system problems. As a Hard Reset restores the Handheld PC to its original shipping state the problem should be rectified by this action.

Other reasons include:

  • Device Slow down's - Like all computers, over time the system becomes cluttered and can suffer from a slowdown
  • Virus Infections - If your handheld is infected by a virus and you are unable to clean it manually a Hard Reset will remove it
  • Boot Failure - If your Handheld PC cannot complete a Soft Reset process, or locks-up while attempting to startup. Hard Resetting will restore the system back to a working state.

Should I regularly Hard Reset my device?

The answer to this question is entirely down to personal preference and how much information you have to restore to the device. Some users Hard Reset their device on a regular basis with aim to keeping the Handheld clutter & problem free. Others have never reset their Handheld PC and it remains problem free.

Restoring information may just be a process of synchronising the Handheld PC with its Host System, it may involve reinstalling lots of programs or for some users it may even involve changes to the registry and core system, settings. All of which can be very time consuming.

If you think you would benefit from schedule Hard Resets you should decide on the most effective way of restoring all your information and programs. HPC:Factor recommends performing the action every 8 - 12 months.

Can I accidentally Hard Reset my Handheld PC?

Yes. A Handheld PC can inadvertently be Hard Reset by excessive environmental conditions and by power state problems.

Operating your Device beyond the environmental guide lines of the manufacturer then you risk triggering a Hard Reset or a complete system Failure.

The most coming cause of accidental hard reset is forgetting to replace the Backup Coin Cell and allowing the main cells to discharge. If either or both of these conditions occur then you run a strong risk of losing your information.

Finally a Hard Reset can be caused by a Power Surge either from the main battery cell or from the AC adapter.

Should I restore from Backup after a Hard Reset?

Ideally no. You may reintroduce a problem that was created before the backup was made. However this is the fastest way of restoring your system. If you Hard Reset to resolve a specific problem and you know that your backup was created before the problem arose. Then restoring from Backup is probably the best method.

How long does a Hard Reset Take?

This depends on your device and the circumstances under which the hard reset took place. Generally speaking the process of clearing the RAM chips takes between 2 and 10 minutes.

How-to Guide

The process of performing a Hard Reset vary between different manufacturers and different devices.

The following steps are generally universal steps you should take when Hard Resetting:

  1. If possible Record all your current device settings.
  2. If possible Perform a Backup of your device so you have a record of all your data should you forget to transfer a file.
  3. If possible synchronise your device with your Host system so that you don't lose any PIM data
  4. Ready all the programs that you need to reinstall onto the Handheld
  5. Remove all attached hardware devices (e.g. PCMCIA cards, CF cards and Sync leads)
  6. Remove your device from the Cradle and power it off
  7. Disconnect your Handheld PC from the AC adapter first*
  8. Remove the Coin Cell Backup Coin Cell second*
  9. Finally remove the Main Battery's*
  10. Leave the device in this state for 20 minutes**

    * - Note 1 - You should perform this action in this order to preserve the system and battery integrity
    ** - Note 2 - You should allow 20 minutes to ensure that there is no Memory Fragmentation and that the reset process is complete

Powering your device back up:

  1. Insert the Backup Coin Cell and allow 30 seconds - 1 minute for the RAM to charge
  2. Insert the Main Battery's
  3. Power On your device
  4. Attach the AC adapter
  5. Go through the OOBE wizard to configure the basic device settings
  6. Install your software programs and hardware
  7. Lastly synchronise your device back with the Host